It turns out not everyone who attended this week’s ceremonial funeral at St. Paul’s Cathedral for the Iron Lady had to be reminded of the appropriate dress code for the very solemn occasion.
The Rt. Hon. Alan Duncan, a member of the British Parliament and a minister of state for international development, showed up in his levee coatee, a form of formal court dress that is reserved for members of the Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council.
Although other members of the council, including Nick Clegg, the Lord President, did not choose to wear their own elaborate outfits, complete with frock-coats and “fore and aft” hats with ostrich feathers, the pint-size Minister of State for International Development says he did so with pride after consulting Carol Thatcher.
“He spoke to her at the weekend and she urged him to go ahead and not to be shy,” a spokesman for Duncan tells Mandrake. “A couple of years ago, Mr Duncan told Lady Thatcher that he intended to acquire the uniform. She told him that uniforms are very important and that they should be worn on special occasions.”
Although the Conservative politician did not wear his “fore and aft” hat, several serving ministers told me they felt it looked de trop. “Alan hardly has the height to carry it off,” one said. “I did hear a few people sigh.”
Invitations to the event were for “full ceremonial dress without sword,” and this applies both to military and civil uniform. “The full levee is wholly correct for the occasion,” Duncan’s spokesman insists.
While commonplace in the age of empire, when the sun famously never set on Britannia’s once vast possessions, the elaborate uniform fell out of usage in the years after the war — and in particular in the modern age of politics, when those who hold office are concerned about having a common man’s touch.
Nevertheless, Mr. Duncan gets a tip of the hat from the gentlemen of PinstripesandTweed.com for erring on the side of tradition. It’s too bad more politicians do not dignify the offices of state — whether great or sinecure — they occupy with the respect and deference such offices deserve.